Listening to Radio 4 in the car the other day, to a sympathetic voice interviewing one of the sad
ISIS fighters migrants refugees trafficked persons, that had just been hauled out of the briny by an Italian rescue boat, something about their story stopped me in my tracks.
‘Did they say they were Libyan?’ I asked Mr G. There was a nondescript grunt. ‘Before that; where did they say they came from?’ ‘I don’t know’. He really is totally useless at times, never pays attention to these details. ‘I’ve got 20 tonne of Scania sitting on my bumper’ he said, by way of lame excuse. ‘If you’re so bloody interested why don’t you try paying attention’. Honestly! Men!
Which is by way of explanation as to why I had to painstakingly Google to fill in the missing gaps of this story. All I could remember of the story was that the woman was eight months pregnant, and had described a terrifying life in Libya of rape, murder, and other atrocities that had forced her and her husband to take the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in a leaky boat after handing thousands of euros to a people smuggler.
Naturally the interviewer was concerned for her welfare – eight months pregnant is not the time to be undertaking a journey like that, and in no time at all, the BBC had been instrumental in making sure she was whisked away in an ambulance to a hospital for a scan and check-up. She returned a couple of hours later and both husband and interviewer were palpably relieved that both she and the baby had suffered no ill effects from the journey and were now safe in the European Union. She was so delighted to have just been told that she was having a baby girl, that in gratitude to the crew of the rescue boat, she was going to call the baby ‘Dignity’.
To Google! ‘Libyan’, ‘eight months pregnant’ ‘rescued’ ‘Italian ship’ – 369,000 results! Hopefully many repeating the same story….[Ed: Shurly?]
There was something else to this tale; something I missed while I was staring out of the car window admiring the Norfolk countryside. That’s it! The bit about her being Nigerian. I had been paying attention. Even if Mr G hadn’t.
Christina and Samuel. Who would ‘rather die’ than stay in Libya. Who felt ‘persecuted in Libya’ and thus willing to risk this journey. They weren’t Libyans at all. They were Nigerians. She’d said she had a beauty parlour in Libya doing false nails – business was better there than in Nigeria…before the fall of Gaddafi. After that, there were all these muggings and rapes and torture and all manner of dreadful things which meant ‘they had to flee across the Mediterranean’ even though she was eight months pregnant.
So, left Nigeria with husband, ran a successful business in Libya, builds up some savings – and then it all goes wrong, war breaks out, frightening situation…
At what point in that scenario do you arrive at the decision that getting pregnant is a good idea, and having done so, instead of heading back south to ‘home’, i.e. Nigeria, family, friends, you elect to give all your savings to a people smuggler and travel north across the Mediterranean in a leaky boat?
Is this grounds for asylum? Should it be? Given the number of Nigerians my Google search turned up in similar circumstances;
A baby born at sea on Christmas Day after his Nigerian mother was plucked from a floundering migrant boat by the Italian navy has been baptised Testimony Salvatore in honour of the medics who delivered him.
I’m originally from Nigeria and I had been living in Libya for five years when the war broke out. I had a good life: I was working as a tailor and I earned enough to send money home to loved ones.
“No one knew where we were going,” says Vincent Collins, a 24-year-old Nigerian who arrived here a day ago. His pregnant wife Jennifer is locked in a separate cell. “Everyone had an idea, everyone was trying to drive the boat,” Collins adds. “We were just following the sun.”
I decided to leave Nigeria because my husband works in Libya and I wanted to take care of him. Staying in Libya is not easy, the fight is too much. You don’t sleep at night and people bust into your house, steal your possessions and rape your wife – they do horrible things. You can work but they will burst into your house and collect everything you worked for. It is not safe for we Nigerians, they kill many of us. […] We believe Europe is better than Libya. I hope my baby will have a better life but I know it’s going to be hard.
I’m sure Europe is better than Libya, and I have much sympathy with Libyans seeking to escape Libya – although there do not seem to be as many of them:
A small number of Libyans are also among those travelling to Lampedusa. Thirty-six-year-old Babacar told IRIN he left Tripoli after being treated badly because he is of African descent. “I hid my identity card inside my shoe in case Libyan authorities stopped me from leaving,” he said. “They are happy for the African workers to leave. But I was afraid they would ask for my documents, find out I was Libyan and send me back. Or something worse,” he said.
I am puzzled by the interviewer, who was obviously aware that whilst he waxed lyrical about the dangers of living in Libya, which is incontrovertible – he didn’t question why these people hadn’t returned to their own country. They could just as easily turned south as north.
There are undoubted dangers in Nigeria – if you are homosexual, for instance, or a Christian living in Boko Haram controlled areas. However, married couples with their children are presumably not homosexuals, and if these people were Christians fleeing Muslim controlled areas, they would not have chosen to reside and work in Muslim controlled Libya would they?